About the Arctic
The Geography of the Arctic Region
The Arctic region is a vast area of ocean ice and surrounding land masses and islands extending southward from the north pole to the Arctic Circle. From the Aleutian Islands in the west to Greenland and Labrador in the east, this region includes all of Greenland (a Danish territory) and all the northern parts of Canada, northernmost Alaska in the U.S., and northern parts of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. See a map of the region here.
The major islands belong to the Canadian Archipelago system (including Axel-Heiberg, Banks, Baffin, Ellesmere, Sverdrup, Victoria, Parry, and Prince of Wales). Off the Norwegian coast, it includes the Norwegian islands known as Svalbard (including Spitsbergen); and in Russia, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, and the New Siberian Islands. The Arctic Circle bisects Iceland on the very southern limit of the region.
The north pole is in the Arctic Ocean, which is connected to the Pacific by the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. On the eastern side, the Arctic Ocean is connected to the North Atlantic through the Greenland Sea. The Arctic Ocean is strategically important as the shortest route between North America and Russia. The ocean's major ports are the Russian cities Murmansk and Arkhangelsk (Archangel). In the last few decades, some summers have seen more shipping lanes open up as a result of melting sea ice.
The Arctic Circle, one of five circles of latitude around the Earth, marks the area where the polar day and the polar night occur. Often referred to as the "land of the midnight sun," this is the area where the sun appears above the horizon at sea level for 24 continuous hours on the summer solstice in June. On the winter solstice in December, polar night occurs, and the sun does not appear at all for a 24-hour period.
Contrary to popular conceptions of an ice-covered wasteland, the Arctic region is surprisingly verdant in summer, with large areas of grassland and wildflowers. It contains both tundra and mountains, and is home to large and small mammals including bears, Dall sheep, caribou, reindeer, wolves, seals, walruses, and whales.